Honor 9 Lite vs. Honor 9: Can little brother take down its impressive sibling?

Honor 9 Lite review wallpaper
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Honor, which released the Honor 7X at the end of 2017 to rapturous applause, is the current king of the budget device. But Honor isn’t finished there — it has cooked up another fantastic-looking budget phone with the Honor 9 Lite. With an 18:9 display, a bezel-less design, and an incredible four camera setup, the Honor 9 Lite is picking up where the Honor 7X left off. But how does it fare against its namesake, the Honor 9? The Honor 9 is a solid midrange device, and a fine example of why you don’t need to spend a lot to get near flagship-level specs. Let’s take a closer look and see how they match up.

Specs

Honor 9 Lite
honor 9 lite vs huawei
Honor 9
honor 9 lite vs huawei 1
Size 151 x 71.9 x 7.6mm (5.94 x 2.83 x 0.30 inches) 147.3 x 70.9 x 7.5mm (5.80 x 2.79 x 0.30 inches)
Weight 149 grams (5.26 ounces) 155 grams (5.47 ounces)
Screen 5.65-inch IPS LCD display 5.15-inch IPS LCD display
Resolution 2160 x 1080 pixels (428ppi) 1920 x 1080 pixels (428ppi)
OS EMUI 8.0 (over Android 8.0 Oreo) EMUI 8.0 (over Android 8.0 Oreo)
Storage 32GB (EU), 64GB (China) 64GB, 128GB
MicroSD card slot Yes, up to 256GB Yes, up to 256GB
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor HiSilicon Kirin 659 HiSilicon Kirin 960
RAM 3GB (EU), 4GB (China) 4GB, 6GB
Connectivity GSM / HSPA / LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n GSM / HSPA / LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Camera Dual sensor 13MP & 2MP rear, dual sensor 13MP & 2MP front Dual sensor 12MP & 20MP rear, 8MP front
Video 1080p @ 30 fps 2160p @ 30 fps
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2 Bluetooth 4.2
Audio Headphone jack, bottom-firing speaker Headphone jack, bottom-firing speaker
Fingerprint sensor Yes, rear-mounted Yes, under the display
Other sensors Accelerometer, proximity, compass Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Water resistant No No
Battery 3,000mAh 3,200mAh
Charging port Micro USB USB-C
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Colors Midnight Black, Sapphire Blue, Glacier Gray, Navy, Seagull Gray, Magic Nightfall, Pearl White Glacier Grey, Sapphire Blue, Midnight Black, Gold, Blue Bird, Robin Egg Blue
Availability HiHonor HiHonor, Amazon
Price Roughly $250 $500
DT review Hands-on review 3.5 out of 5 stars

You don’t have to spend a lot to get a lot from your smartphone, and the Honor 9 Lite proves it. Boasting the same Kirin 659 processor that we saw in the Honor 7X, this device has plenty of processing power. After all, the Honor 7X held up against the Moto G5S Plus, and only came in slightly slower than the more expensive HTC U11 Life and Moto X4. It’s safe to say we expect the same level of performance from the similarly built Honor 9 Lite. The 3GB of RAM (4GB on international models) is a slight disappointment, but not likely to impact performance too much. The European model of the Honor 9 Lite only comes with 32GB of internal storage, but that should be enough thanks to the addition of an MicroSD card slot — though this does take up the secondary SIM slot.

Unfortunately, money does talk sometimes, and that’s generally true of the gap between budget and midrange phones. The higher-end Honor 9’s Kirin 960 is one of Huawei’s finest chips, and it’s capable of keeping up with Huawei’s P10. It unsurprisingly blows the Honor 9 Lite’s Kirin 659 out of the water in terms of power. The other specs are similar — 4GB of RAM at the least, and a baseline model with 64GB of storage with the same MicroSD card option — but the Honor 9 is just flat-out better than the Honor 9 Lite.

Honor still hasn’t caught up with the latest advances in Bluetooth, with both the Honor 9 and 9 Lite lacking Bluetooth 5.0 — it’s 4.2 all the way here. But you will find NFC on both devices, as well as a headphone jack on the bottom of each.

In a battle of pure specs, it’s night and day. The more powerful Honor 9 takes this round.

Winner: Honor 9

Design and display

Honor 9 Lite review full angle
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Honor has been crafting gorgeous phones for years, and both of these handsets show off some fantastic design choices. The Honor 9 follows design trends that began with the Honor 8, with multiple layers of glass laid over metal on the rear to reflect the light in a variety of amazing, prismatic ways. It’s a design you’ll never get tired of, even though it does attract a lot of fingerprints. Unfortunately, the front of the phone isn’t as time-proof. In a world of increasingly bezel-less designs, the chunky bezels surrounding the Honor 9’s 5.15-inch screen look huge.

The Honor 9 Lite might not have the shimmery light-catching quality of the Honor 9, but it’s still a gorgeous design, with glass over aluminum giving the phone a glossy, shiny look. It’s taller than the Honor 9, as well as slightly thicker, but it’s somehow slightly lighter than its older brother. It’s around the front that we see the real difference, though — the Honor 9 Lite owes a lot to the Honor 7X’s and the Honor View 10’s bezel-less designs, with a slim forehead and chin and minimal bezels on the edges of the 5.5-inch screen. It’s a great, eye-catching design, and it bodes well for the Honor range.

Both phones have the same pixels-per-inch measurement, so you shouldn’t see a sharpness difference between the two. Both displays are full HD, but the 18:9 aspect ratio on the Honor 9 Lite obviously gives it a taller screen. Taller screen aside, you shouldn’t see any real difference between the two in terms of image quality.

In terms of durability ,it’s another dead heat. Both phones have slippery glass backs that slide off desks and threaten to shatter. They’re both beautiful but brittle, and you’d be wise to fit them out with a protective case. There’s no waterproofing on either of these phones, and they’re mostly even when it comes to potential damage.

With so much coming up even, the more up-to-date design of the Honor 9 Lite takes this round.

Winner: Honor 9 Lite

Camera

Huawei Honor 9 review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Honor has been quite strong in phone camera tech recently, so it comes as no surprise that both of these phones pack formidable shooters. The dual-lens camera on the Honor 9 was one of our favorites when we reviewed it, and although camera technology has continued to advance and get better, the 12-megapixel and 20-megapixel sensors in the Honor 9 still acquit themselves very well. The 20-megapixel lens houses a monochrome sensor, which works with the 12-megapixel lens to enhance the lighting of photographs to create great low-light shots. It can also be used alone, providing wonderful monochromatic images. The two lenses also deliver a “bokeh” effect, and the camera software has a Portrait Mode that can be used to great effect in shooting solo images of people.

The Honor 9 Lite follows suit with two lenses on the rear, but that’s mostly where the similarities end. The Honor 9 Lite has a 13-megapixel lens paired with a 2-megapixel lens that provides the “bokeh” effect, as well as allows for use of Portrait Mode. However, there’s no dedicated monochrome sensor, so any monochrome shots will be via a filter, and low-light performance won’t be as good. However, we expect the camera to still be of good quality, much like the Honor 7X, so it’s not out of the game yet. It’s around the front of the phone that you find the major selling point — two selfie lenses. Boasting another 13-megapixel and 2-megapixel pairing, this setup allows for Portrait Mode and bokeh around the front of the phone as well as the back, so you can expect exceptional selfies from the Honor 9 Lite.

We haven’t had time to judge the Honor 9 Lite’s quality yet, but we have faith in Honor’s ability to deliver an extremely solid camera suite. With the quad-camera setup on the Honor 9 Lite, it will be a winner for selfie addicts, but we can’t see the main camera competing with the shooter in the Honor 9.

Winner: Honor 9

Battery life and charging

Honor 9 Lite review micro usb
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

While this category is often easy to call, it’s still among the most crucial elements of the phone. After all, what’s the point in a phone that’s so powerful it doesn’t last the day? Some people might be fine with that, but others will definitely have issues. Both of these phones are packing decent battery sizes, but the Honor 9 holds an advantage, with its 3,200mAh capacity just edging out the Honor 9 Lite’s 3,000mAh. That’s not to say the Honor 9 will definitely last longer than the Honor 9 Lite — review testing will reveal that — but it’s fair to assume that a larger battery capacity on the same software will produce better results.

The Honor 9 also has the advantage of a USB-C charging port, and the additional charging speed and utility that offers. The Honor 9 Lite is stuck with a Micro USB port, and a lack of any fast charging really hurts this phone, especially when the Honor 9 can juice up 40 percent in just 30 minutes.

There’s a clear winner here. The extra capacity and fast charging hand the Honor 9 the win.

Winner: Honor 9

Software

Huawei Honor 9 review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Honor uses Huawei’s Emotion UI (EMUI) Android reskin on its phones, and it’s fair to say that EMUI has come a long way. Both of these phones run the latest version, EMUI 8.0 (based on Android 8.0 Oreo), and if you’re a fan of stock Android, you definitely won’t like EMUI. It’s about as far from stock Android as you can get, but if you’re not too worried about that, then there’s a lot to love. EMUI has some pretty strict power-management tools, but it’s easy enough to turn those off. It’s also easy to uninstall the preinstalled apps that come with each device.

There’s not much to say about any real differences between the two devices since they both run exactly the same software. It’s probable that the system runs slightly smoother on the Honor 9, just because of the increased power under the hood. Are you likely to notice much difference? We think not. This is a tie.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

Honor 9 Lite review top front
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Here’s the bad news for you if you’re in the U.S. — neither of these phones is easy to get your hands on. Honor is a sister company of Huawei, and Huawei recently had some issues trying to get its phones into the stores of U.S. carriers. While you can get your hands on an imported model from another territory, you’ll be limited to 3G speeds on GSM networks like T-Mobile and AT&T, and won’t get any support on CDMA networks like Verizon and Sprint.

The Honor 9 is currently available and will set you back roughly $500. For that price, you get specs on par with 2017 flagship-killers like the OnePlus 5. While it might not be able to keep up with the biggest boys, it’s a solid midrange smartphone that gives you great value for money.

Like the Honor 9, there’s been no official U.S. release set for the Honor 9 Lite yet. Based on pricing in other regions, we reckon you could get this phone for around $250. For that price, you get the quad-camera suite, and all the mod-cons you expect from the latest EMUI software. However, it does take a power hit compared to the Honor 9. Buyers must decide whether the extra $250 is worth paying.

The difference here is too tough to call. If you’re a power user, the extra oomph offered by the midrange Honor 9 is what you need. But if you need a cheap phone that does everything fairly well, then the Honor 9 Lite is for you. Figure out which person you are, and pick accordingly. This has to be a tie.

 Winner: Tie

Overall winner: Honor 9

Huawei Honor 9 review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Money talks. And so does power. Despite looks that are oh-so-2016, the Honor 9 wins thanks to a better processor, extra storage, solid and dependable camera, and a large fast-charging battery. But that’s certainly not to say the Honor 9 Lite isn’t a fine budget phone for those who find themselves drawn to it. With its balance of power, style, and value, the Honor 9 Lite comes out well. With this being Honor’s first smartphone of 2018, the Chinese company is off to a very good start.

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